The African Union’s Hypocrisy Undermines Its Credibility

ECOWAS mediator and former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. Image credit: U.S. Embassy-Ghana@flickr

ECOWAS mediator and former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. Image credit: U.S. Embassy-Ghana@flickr

The AU’s double standard on lifelong leaders who reject term limits undercuts its moral standing to reject military coups.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this commentary are those of the authors, one of whom is a staff member of International IDEA. This commentary is independent of specific national or political interests. Views expressed do not necessarily represent the institutional position of International IDEA, its Board of Advisers or its Council of Member States.


On Aug. 18, following months of protests, elements within the Malian army took it upon themselves to remove President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita from power. Keita subsequently resigned and dissolved parliament. The coup is the third in Africa in the past three years and has yet again demonstrated that, while the heyday of military coups may have passed, they are certainly not entirely out of fashion

The African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned the coup, suspended Mali’s membership, and demanded a return to constitutional order—with ECOWAS also demanding Keita’s reinstatement. The AU and ECOWAS have a credibility problem—they are not denouncing those who flout laws to hold on to power; they complain only when the military seizes it.

Prominent Malians vehemently rejected the AU and ECOWAS responses, with the leader of the June 5 Movement coalition that spearheaded the protests defiantly proclaiming: “We are going to cross ECOWAS’s red line.” On Aug. 21, huge crowds descended on Bamako’s Independence Square to celebrate and applaud the coup leaders. 

Observers also defended the military intervention... 


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About the Author

Programme Officer
Adem Kassie Abebe

Adem Kassie Abebe supports constitution-building processes around the world, and designs and implements projects particularly in transitions to peace and democracy in politically complex and fragile contexts. He convens platforms for dialogue, advises and provides technical assistance to high level constitution and decision makers at national and international levels and to civil society stakeholders. He was an editor of and managed ConstitutionNet from 2016 to 2021, an online platform providing continuous updates on comparative constitutional reform processes around the world. A notable feature of ConstitutionNet is 'Voices from the Field', a series in which local experts provide analysis and updates on the process, content and principal actors in ongoing constitutional-reform proposals.